It has been a long and testing period for CIOs as they seek to understand the implications of Brexit. For many it will pose a significant operational challenge.
But for those who can lift their heads from contingency planning and take a more strategic view, it can also present opportunities.
In particular, the Brexit vote could offer the investment or acquisition of niche and start-up technology innovators – as their traditional sources of funding may become more cautious.
Many funds are sitting on the fence until things settle down, allowing bold CIOs to get the jump on the competition and pick-up the best of the bunch.
Securing talent is another area. The UK has more highly-skilled digital professionals, including scientists and cyber-security specialists, than anywhere in Europe – according to KPMG’s recent survey of CIOs.
The UK could be on the verge of becoming a destination for corporates to near-shore technology skills and digital work.
Brexit is a catalyst for change as it will force CIOs to look at their systems, governance and tackle the ‘this is the way we’ve always done things’ mentality. What better time to drive out complexity, simplify IT architecture and improve services?
Although most in the business community did not want the referendum to go the way it did, Brexit could be the thing that delivers their proudest legacy.
However, CIOs need to address the short, medium and long-term risks Brexit presents. Staff from the EU may feel uneasy about their future. Firms that heavily depend on foreign expertise may be worried about losing those staff or attracting talent from EU countries.
Organisations could also delay or cancel large funding approvals and the pound’s fall may require them to recalculate planned projects, especially where they are buying software, services, hardware or using foreign-based teams.
CIOs need to be aware that EU rules will remain in place until the UK’s final exit. One of the most important pieces of regulation is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – the toughest data protection rulebook ever drafted – which comes into force in May 2018.
Companies that want to trade and exchange information with the EU will still have to adhere to the GDPR, or at least something comparable.
Above all, CIOs need not let Brexit drive innovation into the ground or force them onto the back foot.